Frequently Asked Questions


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The mission of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is to increase public safety and improve the fair administration of justice through leadership and programs nationwide. In order to advance that mission, OJP launched the Diagnostic Center in spring 2012. The Diagnostic Center assists communities and community leaders in implementing data-driven strategies to improve public safety and criminal justice outcomes. The Diagnostic Center’s defining characteristic is its diagnostic approach of first assembling and then analyzing data from the community. This methodical diagnostic approach includes identifying stakeholders, gauging the scope of community challenges, recognizing trends, establishing baselines, and determining which data points can be moved by implementation of data-driven strategies. The Diagnostic Center promotes the integration and translation of data on what works into enduring criminal justice and public safety solutions.

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The OJP Diagnostic Center is a resource for community leaders seeking to implement data-driven interventions to address public safety, juvenile justice and criminal justice issues. The Diagnostic Center will provide assistance in identifying, assessing, and implementing evidence-based strategies to combat crime and improve public safety at the state, tribal, or local levels. The Diagnostic Center helps communities use local data to frame public safety and criminal justice issues, and then choose among effective strategies to address them. An engagement with the Diagnostic Center entails weeks or months of collaborative work, remote and on-site, with specialists in a process that capitalizes on the expertise of Diagnostic Center staff and of community stakeholders. The Diagnostic Center’s value lies in its ability to offer real-time diagnosis in partnership with criminal justice policymakers and practitioners to achieve system-wide change. Communities engaged with the Diagnostic Center benefit from this collaborative approach that connects them to expertise, training, and technical assistance resources tailored to particular community risks and strengths.

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The Diagnostic Center’s primary audience is decision makers in state, local, and tribal governments. This resource is targeted at those who have the authority to make policy decisions and convene stakeholder groups to address public safety issues through a jurisdiction- or community-level intervention.

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The long-term objectives of the Diagnostic Center are to:

  1. Integrate evidence-based and data-driven training and technical assistance services available through OJP and other offices and enhance ease of access for state, local, and tribal leaders.
  2. Identify, catalog, and assess evidence-based and data-driven services and solutions that enable the field to translate evidence into policy and practice.
  3. Build a sustainable, collaborative, nationwide criminal justice community that shares data-driven solutions.
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OJP considers programs and practices to be evidenced-based when their effectiveness has been positively demonstrated by causal evidence (generally obtained through one or more rigorous outcome evaluations). Causal evidence documents a relationship between an activity or intervention (including technology) and its intended outcome, including measuring the direction and size of a change and the extent to which a change may be attributed to the activity or intervention. Causal evidence depends on the use of scientific methods to rule out, to the extent possible, alternative explanations for the documented change.

The CrimeSolutions.gov website is a resource that assists practitioners and policy makers with finding information about evidence-based programs in criminal justice, juvenile justice, and crime victim services.

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Once the Diagnostic Center determines to engage with a community that has requested assistance, Diagnostic Center staff will contact the requestor to discuss the issue presented for diagnosis and to gather available local data. After initial analysis, the Diagnostic Center staff will work with experts in the community and within DOJ to develop hypotheses about what factors may be contributing to the problem and map those factors to proven, data-driven model programs and practices. The next step in the process is creating a response strategy and intervention plan through coordination with a multidisciplinary DOJ, state, and local response team. Finally, the local response team will implement the strategy with ongoing support from the Diagnostic Center. The Diagnostic Center will support the long-term collection of outcome data to assess the effectiveness of the implemented strategy.

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The Diagnostic Center aims to make a measurable, positive impact at the state, local, and tribal levels by facilitating the implementation of data-driven strategies. Diagnostic Center involvement will help communities build capacity to use data in program and policy decision making.

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The Diagnostic Center operates in coordination with other OJP technical assistance efforts. The purpose of the Diagnostic Center is not to duplicate existing technical assistance resources already available through OJP, but rather to facilitate coordination to tackle broad jurisdiction- or community-level crime issues. The Diagnostic Center may take on engagements referred from other DOJ technical assistance providers or may work in partnership with other DOJ technical assistance programs or providers, or in concert with technical assistance programs in other executive agencies.

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In general, the following kinds of requests are appropriate for Diagnostic Center referral:

Buy-in at the Jurisdiction Level.
The request has clear support and engagement of stakeholders with authority to implement broad-based policy and jurisdiction-level change.
Evidence-based Response Strategy.
The request requires a response strategy based on data-driven practices or programs.
Coordinated Response.
The response requires coordination across OJP or DOJ offices and may require a multi-jurisdiction, cross-disciplinary state or local response team.
Case Study Approach.
The request would benefit from a case study approach involving extensive background research and mapping the issue to a proven data-driven practice or program.
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In order to effectively implement data-driven strategies that make real change in communities, community stakeholders need to be fully engaged and committed to the process. Each Diagnostic Center strategic response will be tailored to meet a community’s specific assets and needs; each will require effort, and sometimes financial commitment, to support meaningful and recognizable change. While the Diagnostic Center will provide some resources and financial support, additional local funding may be needed to sustain the response strategy over time.

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To learn more about the Diagnostic Center, please email your comments or questions to contact@ojpdiagnosticcenter.org or call 1-855-OJP-0411 (1-855-657-0411).

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This website is supported by Contract No GS-23F-9755H awarded by the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions on this website are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Data-driven strategies and solutions drive criminal justice decision-making and program implementation through the use of baseline indicators that can be measured over time to show progress against intended outcomes. To use a data-driven approach means that a community proactively uses qualitative and quantitative information to inform criminal justice policy, decisions and operational strategies in a measurable way.